Posts from the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

Play While You Play…..

I mainly have pictures this week. We decided to take the week off. We had a few days of 70 degree weather (that ironically came right after an ice storm that put our county in a state of emergency) that were just screaming for a field trip. So we headed to the Greensboro Science Center on Monday…..

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The  Museum of Life and Science on Tuesday…..

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And finally the Children’s Museum of Alamance County on Wednesday….

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On Thursday, I decided to clean out the girls’ room and rid it of the junk they have been collecting. This was greatly facilitated by a little pre-purge chat with Sassafras about the difference between treasures in heaven and treasures on earth (not to mention the (not so) few things that I thought didn’t belong in either category!).

The only schoolwork we did all week was two math lessons, and for Sassafras, I think she also did half a page of Latin. However, we had to get art in, so on Friday we tried out a lesson from Atelier Art, which I borrowed from a friend. They were to draw a tree(s) starting from a seed, showing different branches and the roots. I’ll leave you with their finished products! I hope everyone had a good week!

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Ice Storms, The Grinch, and the British Zebra

How awful is this? We’re in week 27 of our school year, and I’ve written zero reports. That pesky little thing called “life” just keeps getting in the way! Well, today I’m sitting here looking at this:

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There’s nothing really to do other than stepping around scattered Lego Duplos with my cold feet and drinking decaf. Today happens to be the umpteenth snow day (or ice day today!) for our public school friends, making the public school schedule this year actually relevant to our life for the first time. Saturday make-up days affect rec league sports, Scout activities, etc. Well, even this Saturday’s scheduled make-up day has been cancelled due to the slushy mess, fallen trees, and power outages. Sigh.

So what have we been up to this year? Fourth grade, second grade, Kindergarten, and preschool. Cub Scouts, American Heritage Girls, soccer, and basketball. Geomissions: Latin America (which reminds me…I need to start working on my Argentina presentation), teaching a bit of piano, and, of course, church involvement. That’s why I haven’t written anything all year. I’m slap worn out! The fact that I’m sitting here now and typing this probably means I’ve forgotten about something else I should be doing. Well, until I’ve discovered what it is, I’m going to try to write a few coherent words about our homeschool this year.

For history this year we’re working through Tapestry of Grace Year 4. Right now we’re about to finish up the Vietnam War. For science we finished Apologia’s Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures last week. We desperately need a field trip to an aquarium to sorta wrap things up. Unfortunately, the closest we’ve gotten is ordering calamari as an appetizer a few weeks ago. 🙂 Meanwhile, I’ve decided to change gears a little bit in science, and this week we started Science in the Beginning by Jay Wile. The next book in the series, Science in the Ancient World, is coming out next month, and I’m very interested in maybe using it next year while we’re going through ancient history. I really love Apologia and will probably read through some of the other books during upcoming summers….assuming that I like Wile’s series enough to stick with it. So far we’re having a lot of fun with the first chapter on light. Although, cramming four kids and myself into our 15 sq ft half-bath to do “dark room” experiments has been a little trying.

I’ve tried to stay on top of art and music this year with Harmony Fine Arts 4, although I did drop the ball in the middle of the year with George Seurat and Maurice Ravel. I managed to pull things back together for Picasso and Rimsky-Korsakov, and now we’re in full swing with Georgia O’Keefe and Stravinsky. We’ve done a good bit of art with chalk pastels this year, mainly copying paintings in a Drawing with Children-style. This week, instead of doing O’Keefe style art, we decided to draw Dr. Suess characters in honor of his birthday. I included the drawings in the individual sections below. The Grinch is rather popular in our home! Here are a few of our art projects from this year. The duck is Z-man’s and the Picasso belongs to Sassafras.

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I’ve been trying to do better about read-alouds this year. Recently we’ve read It’s a Jungle Out There, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks. At the moment we’re reading The Magician’s Nephew.


This year Sassafras has really been enjoying AHG. We’ve gone camping a few times, and she’s gotten really good at tying knots. In the picture below she has used a double half-hitch and a taut-line to tie herself to her chair. Now if she would just tie the Z-man to his chair!!


Sassafras has a full plate this year….probably a little too full. She’s doing a good bit of stuff from Memoria Press, including First Form Latin, D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, Christian Studies II, Classical Composition: Fables, and Geography II. And then there’s math, grammar, spelling, CLE Reading, and of course, the history and science that I’ve already mentioned. What have I done to her?! Ack! No, really…it hasn’t been impossible…although I have let her cut a few corners here and there when I felt things were getting a bit much. The Greek myths are really something extra that she could have done without this year, but she’s been learning a lot, greatly facilitated by the audio book (Yes, we outsource the pronunciation of all those Greek names to other people…and we don’t feel guilty about it!).



The Z-man just completed his Wolf badge in Scouts. He’s a little disappointed that the Scout camping trip was cancelled this weekend due to ice. 😦


I finally threw in the towel with Rod & Staff Math once he finished Math 2. It’s just not worth the fight. He sees the page of problems and completely shuts down. I’ve switched him all the way to Singapore, which we were just using as a supplement before. He does much better with it, although I don’t like how it’s arranged, and I really want a traditional math program mixed in. I don’t think it has enough practice or enough review. Of course, the small number of problems gets two thumbs up from him! I’m thinking about having him do Teaching Textbooks next year along with Singapore. He’s enamored with anything on the computer, and he’s already enthusiastically completed all the sample lessons online. We’ll see. I need to find it at a good used price.

In art this week, he decided not to jump on the Grinch bandwagon. The Z-man presents the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz!


Little Man:

Little Man is doing so well on his reading! He’s finally able to sit and read early readers all by himself, so we got him his own library card a few weeks ago. He finished Sonlight’s Grade 1 Readers today. Woohoo!


Right now Little Man has his first loose tooth. If it doesn’t fall out soon, one of two things (or both) is going to happen: He’s going to either starve to death or I’m going to pull my hair out from all the drama.

BREAKING NEWS! Little Man has just lost his first tooth while eating popcorn! The tooth in question is now missing, either mixed among the popcorn kernels or in his stomach. Z-man suggested we search his poop for it.

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Doodlebug will be four years old this month. She’s expecting great things, including pierced ears (not!), no rail on her bed (probably), playing with her sister’s Playmobil and Legos (“Not likely,” says her sister), and graduating to “big kid” status (She’ll be four going on twelve). The world is a brand new place when you’re fowuh!

For preschool she does a few Kumon workbooks and has just started the Explode the Code phonics primers. We tried a few months ago, but she was hearing cows and sheep at the beginning of “fence” rather than an “f” sound. 🙂 I think she’s finally getting the hang of it. She has also really enjoyed Teach Your Monster How to Read, although she does snicker at the British pronunciation of zebra. Do the British really say it with a short e? I had to consult the dictionary to confirm that they do.

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The Rest of Us (Me, Hubby, & Max, a.k.a. The Dog Who Forgets He Was Rescued):

This year I think we’ve been running on pure coffee. (We bought a Bunn. It produces caffeinated heaven in three minutes.) Well, no coffee for the dog. He probably needs a valium. I don’t think he and Doodlebug mesh too well. He has a secret plan to frame her for some massive disaster in hopes that she will be kicked out of the house. However, keeping Doodlebug around guarantees that he will– at least a couple times a week– receive breakfast or supper twice, not to mention receiving numerous dog treats from her hand while the rest of the family isn’t paying attention. He’s currently weighing the pros and cons.

In our spare time we watch a little Doc Martin and some other British shows. I try to get some reading in when I can. I’m currently reading Moby Dick….and I’m stubborn enough to get through it. However, they haven’t even made it on the ship yet, so maybe I shouldn’t be so optimistic. Actually I really have enjoyed the first 16% (Kindle-ese).

And some weeks I get in on the kids’ art. By Friday afternoon my brain is fried, and it helps to do something different.


And finally, since so much time has passed since my last update, I want to include a few of my favorite pictures from this year. Enjoy!

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Week 5: A Bunch of Birds

We’ve completed week 5! And frankly I’m too exhausted to write this. So I’m going to say a few words and then post a bunch of pics. We’ve  been all about birds this week. Our science experiment was to see if birds prefer sunflower seeds or thistle seeds. It’s still a work in progress, but so far the sunflower seeds are winning. 🙂 We’ve seen over a dozen different kinds of  birds in the yard this week, with our favorites being a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) and Mr. Downy Woodpecker. A Brown-headed Nuthatch was a newcomer.

The rest of the week was normal school stuff–math, grammar, Latin, etc.  History was about John Marshall and the Supreme Court, music continued with Handel, and art was copying a painting of the Infanta Margarita by Velazquez. (Hence the drawings of the girl in the big dress below.) Sassafras started a book about William Wilberforce and continued to read The Magician’s Nephew, while the Z-man cackled his way through Frog and Toad. (Yes, he thinks Frog and Toad are hilarious!) Little Man practiced writing numbers 1-5 and asked me to read The Emperor’s New Clothes…..repeatedly, and Doodlebug…..well, she dismantled Hippos Go Berserk.

We finished up our week by going to Cedarock Park. We took a walk around the historical site and walked a couple of trails. Our goal was to look for birds, but in the end we mainly saw butterflies….and spiders. Something tells me the birds knew we were coming. 🙂 There were, however, a good many Eastern Bluebirds, including juveniles (I had to look those up!), in the open areas.




Little Man:






Busy, Busy, Busy, Busy!

It’s back to the grindstone! We’ve had four weeks of school, plus an extra week thrown in where Sassafras went to science camp. Things have gone surprisingly well. Our days are pretty full with me trying to juggle all the kids and spend individual time with each one. I think I’ve finally settled into a routine to keep track of everyone. This week has also introduced soccer practice! Thankfully, practice is on the same night for all three kids!

Doodlebug has been busy with Operation Potty Training. There have been some bumps in the road, but overall it’s going well. If all else fails, her training underwear make for an excellent scabbard for her sword. 🙂 Meanwhile, she’s been taking cosleeping into unchartered territory. 🙂


Preschool consists of anything that keeps her occupied and keeps her from coloring on the table….or the walls. A piece of construction paper and some scissors usually does the job. She likes the few Lauri toys we have, and she likes to sort her shapes. Little Man taught her how to sort by color. Her favorite books are currently Llama Llama Red Pajama, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Hippos Go Berserk. I could quote all of them in my sleep….backwards.


Little Man is such a trooper. He’s been working through Explode the Code Primer C and Singapore Earlybird math. For the past five weeks, he’s been learning to read, already completing the first five Bob books. We spend our reading practice time with a dry marker board and some magnet tiles. He likes to write the periods at the end of the sentences. (The other day on one of his drawings, he had put a small circle in the corner. He said, “That’s a period ‘cuz I done.”) Speaking of drawing, I’ve noticed that his drawings are more like what you would expect from a 3 yr old. They’re mainly circles and scribbles.  He doesn’t draw stick or symbolic figures or really anything at all. He actually has very good fine motor skills, so that’s not the problem. I’ve also noticed that he has trouble duplicating patterns with objects (like arranging squares in different patterns). So this week I guided him through drawing a lion, a tiger, and a frog using Usborne’s I Can Draw Animals. This is mainly to help him observe something and then try to copy it. He did really well!


For Little Man this year, I started with Sonlight’s p4/5 curriculum, which is what I used for Sassafras and Z-man when they were 4 yrs old. Some of the books were okay for him, but the storybooks just didn’t have enough pictures in them. He was completely zoning out. So this week I made the decision to save p4/5 for Kindergarten and to go back to Sonlight’s p3/4 curriculum. We read many of the stories last year and he really enjoyed them. When I pulled some of the p3/4 books out again this week, he said, “Oh! I love these books!” It confirmed my decision. 🙂


Z-man is my 1st grader! When I can keep him focused, he does pretty well. He’s doing much better in math. He spent the summer playing with C-rods and doing Singapore math. He’s now on the second half of Rod & Staff Grade 1 Math, with some Life of Fred thrown in on occasion. I plan to start him back on Singapore once he knows his facts through 10.  Z-man has also started All About Spelling Level 1, First Language Lessons, Writing with Ease 1, and Explorer’s Bible Study. He’s also working extra hard at learning the continents, oceans, and US states this year. I’m hoping one day soon he won’t say “Georgia” when I point to Europe! This year is also the start of piano for the Z-man. (Yes, I think I’m crazy! I’m chewing on a lot!)


Sassafras is now my big 3rd grader! Oy! She’s continuing on the next level in all her language arts programs, including All About Spelling 5, Writing with Ease 3, and First Language Lessons 3. She diagrammed her first sentence today. Woohoo! Let the fun begin! (Yes, I’m a nerd.) For math she is continuing in Rod & Staff Math, Singapore Math, and Life of Fred. Latin this year is Latina Christiana I. Her new subject this year is CLE Reading 3, which I’m loving! She’s a great reader, but this program is going to help her think critically about what she’s reading. For literature she will be doing a combination of Tapestry of Grace literature and selections from Veritas Press and Ambleside Online. She is currently reading The Magician’s Nephew. In piano, Sassafras just started level 2 of Bastien. Let the scales begin!


This year I’m combining Sassafras and Z-man in history, science, art, and music. In history we have covered John Adams, Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, and Lewis & Clark. Sassafras and Z-man started off the year by making a salt-dough map of landforms. Little Man even helped to paint it. We’re trying to do some notebooking each week in history. Below is the Z-man’s page on Eli Whitney and Sassafras’s pages on Napoleon and Lewis & Clark. The latter uses free lapbook pieces I found online.


For science this year we’re doing Apologia’s Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. We’re doing the notebook journals that come with the curriculum, and both Sassafras and Z-man are really enjoying them. Our two experiments so far have included testing gliders and an air pressure experiment. I think they threw gliders for at least an hour!


For art and music this year, we’re using Harmony Fine Arts for Grade 3. Right now our artist is Diego Valazquez and our composer is Handel. Our art projects so far have mainly used oil pastels. This week they were supposed to draw a jug on a dark background.


So that’s the gist of what we’re doing this year. Busy, busy, busy. I need lots of prayer and a cup of strong coffee to get things off to a good start each day! I’ve also been getting up early and exercising in the mornings, and I think that is greatly helping with my stress level. Starting in September we’ll be doing the Homeschool on the Move program at the YMCA. We’ll also be starting our enrichment class on Asia once a month. China, here we come! Make that busy, busy, busy, busy!

One last item of miscellaneous news: Our moonflower, which Sassafras started from a seed, is finally blooming. 🙂

Summer Ambitions

With summer in full swing, the lack of a schedule is about to drive me bonkers. We managed a little bit of math and reading, and we’ve been enjoying our first summer read-aloud, Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. But other than that, no one seems to be able to find a direction to go in. We got out of the house a couple of times this week, which has helped. We had a little “School’s Out” party with some of our homeschooling friends on Monday, and on Thursday we headed to the science center in Greensboro.

In spite of the chaos this week,  I’ve been a little ambitious (maybe that’s the source of the chaos? Hmmm….). For starters, we converted Doodlebug’s crib into a toddler bed this week. It’s been great so far with the exception of the first night, during which I had to sit on the floor and sing to her until she settled down. I also tried to start potty training this week. I quickly repented of that.

I started the Z-man on piano this week. He’s been begging me, so I figured we’d just go ahead and get moving on it. So far so good……

As far as Sassafras goes, I let her start tinkering with my sewing machine. I took the thread out and let her practice getting a steady speed with the foot pedal. I then let her sew (without thread) on paper to practice watching the foot pedal as a guide instead of the needle. By the second day, all of her lines were straight and she sewed some decent curves. She also practiced turning corners. She was dying to make something, so I printed off a free dress pattern for her new American Girl doll. By the way, she just had a birthday this past weekend. (Yay for her…breathing into a paper bag for me… did she get to be 8 already?!) Anyway, we chose some pink fabric that I already owned and made a little pillowcase-style dress. She sewed the side seams and I did the rest (which was all “stitch close to the edge” stuff). Not too bad…..not too bad. Now, of course, she wants me to make a matching dress for her.


It seems that Little Man has been the only one to escape my ambitious spirit this week. The biggest problem he had was losing the pants of his Spider Man costume every time he assumed the “Spidey” position. When he wasn’t saving the world, he was juking to Cello Wars.

And what have I been up to? I have two chapters left of Gulliver’s Travels. I think my next fiction book will be Oliver Twist. I have Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy on order, but Amazon seems to be dragging their feet.

A while back I had started working on a Chopin piece on piano, and then I got sidetracked. Well, I’ve been back in the saddle this week. I only have four lines left to learn, and then I’ll have a rough draft of the whole thing. It’s amazing what a little bit of daily practice will accomplish. 🙂

Math and Chores

The kids thought they were on summer vacation. But what does Mommy make them do to rob them of their summer fun? Math and chores! Muahahahah!!!

And now for the rest of the story. The Z-man has been busy building math fact towers with c-rods and base-10 flats. How bad can that be? See, he’s smiling in the pic. I’ve even caught him with his Singapore math workbook before breakfast. (I guess there is the possibility that I’ve brainwashed him into thinking math is fun, but we’re not going to linger on that thought. By the way, here are some videos you can use to brainwash your child into loving math, as well.) Sassafras, after doing a Rod&Staff math lesson, has been tackling a chapter of Life of Fred each day, an activity that she has been downright giddy about. She’s also finishing up Singapore’s Challenging Word Problems 2. Today she said, “Ooo! I can do this one without any help!” I was then instructed to get my cup of coffee and to just “sit there and watch.” I felt like I should have been paying admission.


And now on to the chores. My kids already gladly make their beds and pick up their stuff <insert hacking cough/laugh>. Ok, they do make their beds and pick up their stuff with a little….uhhh….coaxing at times. I felt the need to give them some more responsibility and structure in doing chores, as well as some incentives. I’ve taught Sassafras and the Z-man how to do their own laundry. They are doing a great job! All I have to do is put in detergent and frabic softener and push start. They transfer their clothes to the dryer, fold/hang them, and put them away. Ahhhhh! It’s so refreshing! A couple of days ago I made a set of chore cards that I plan to distribute each day according to ability and what needs to be done. (I even laminated them with my new laminator!) While some chores are freebies (for me), such as doing their own laundry, making their beds, picking up their toys, helping set the table, etc, I’ve also designated three chores each per week that are money-makers, pending that they are done well. They will also on occasion be able to make more money by doing extra chores. They’ll get paid at the end of the month. One reason I’m doing this is because they have zero concept of how money works, and I want them to learn how to save, give, and spend money wisely. Plus, (since confession is good for the soul) I hate laundry.

Life of Fred and money. See, I’m not so evil. Doodlebug is so far exempt from math and chores. However, she should be able to assist in making her bed when we convert her crib to a toddler bed. This is really a change I need to make this summer before we start school again. Let the insanity begin!


On Memorial Day weekend, we went to the NC homeschool conference. Sassafras and Z-man went with us and attended the children’s conference. While they were jumping in bounce houses and singing songs, hubby and I were busy buying workbooks, books, and more Life of Fred, as well as listening to speakers. (John Stonestreet is always a favorite of mine!) We stayed at a hotel in the historic district of Winston-Salem called the Brookstown Inn. Our room was in what we called the “Tower of London.” The elevator only went to the 3rd floor, and from there we had to take the stairs. It was actually a pretty cool place. It was only later that I discovered that some people think it’s haunted. Apparently it’s something about some woman ghost crying for mercy. Hmm……. Maybe next time we’ll need to take our little Jedis with us. As you can tell, Little Man has no mercy.


In other news…. My lilies are coming up nicely, I’ve discovered The Piano Guys, and I finished Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History.


Following Foundations 5/18/2012

School’s out for summer!! We finished up everything this week, although reaching the finish line was rather anti-climatic since we only had a few things left anyway–a couple of grammar and writing lessons, a bit of math, and some notebooking. The Z-man finished Explode the Code 4, and we did some quick read-alouds–Capyboppy and Elmer and the Dragon. Sassafras had so much free time that she made herself a new fleece blanket. I cut the strips around the edge, and she tied all the knots. (I included a pic below.)

Last Saturday was very busy with Sassafras playing two games in a soccer festival. I have a peeling sunburned neck to show for it. 😦 In the evening we took some pizza out to a local park and did some walking on the nature trails. Since it was late in the day, the areas that were very wooded were starting to get a little dark. We happened upon a Scarlet tanager taking a bath in the creek. He was so beautiful! The kids chose him for their nature study. We found out that the red feathers of the males molt to olive green in the fall, making them look very similar to the females in the fall/winter.

Mother’s Day was great! I got a pink cover for my Kindle. Yay! Kinda makes it hard for my hubby to borrow it now. 🙂 In my reading this week, I continued to work through Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History and Gulliver’s Travels.





Little Man: